Born in Caherconlish, County Limerick, Republic of Ireland (28 August, 1847), the son of Mary (née Moore) and Captain William Garstin. From a difficult childhood (his mother’s paralysis and invalidism, and his father’s suicide), he was brought up by loving aunts. After school at Victoria College, Jersey, he had short-term ‘trys’ at engineering, architecture and finally diamond hunting in South Africa (becoming a close friend of Cecil Rhodes), becoming involved in the Cape government and journalism.

In 1880 he began his art training at the Royal Academy in Antwerp with Verstraete, and then studied at Carolus-Duran’s Academy in Paris (1882-84), beginning to exhibit in British galleries during that period. Always he wrote, and recorded his reactions, journalism proving an excellent avocation throughout his life and one which he would pass on to his sons, Crosbie GARSTIN and Denis Garstin. His articles in The Studio and other magazines thread their way through the history of the Newlyn colony, always supportive of his working colleagues and their art. His daughter, Alethea GARSTIN would follow his other route and take-up art.

He married Louisa ‘Dochie’ Jones in 1886 after his ‘grand tour’ to Venice, Italy, Morocco and Spain, all of which added up to a large portfolio of work. The couple settled in Newlyn where many of his former colleagues from Antwerp had already set up, and where the general aversion to academic art agreed with his individualist and realist inclinations. In 1886 they lived at Mount Vernon, in Newlyn, though by 1895 they had moved into Penzance. 

He was on the Provisional Committee of artists when NAG opened 22nd October 1895, and worked steadily with it over many years (see his Introduction to the Whitechapel Spring Exhibition of 1902, repr Hardie 2009), showing the work of artists from the various West Cornwall colonies. He regularly took groups of art students to his favourite painting haunts on the Continent, and he was a popular and much loved teacher.

Of his many titles, The Rain, it raineth every day (Penlee House Collection) is undoubtedly one of his finest. A portrait of Mary Augusta Carlidna Bolitho was exhibited at Penlee House, Penzance in 2005 (Private Collection). Norman Garstin died on 22 June, 1926, age 78, in Penzance (GRO). 


Painter of genre and exotic scenes in oil and watercolour; teacher, arts journalist

works and access

Likeness: Norman Garstin, by Stanhope Forbes (Penlee House Collection)

Access to work: Penlee House, Penzance; Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro; Plymouth Art Gallery; Bristol; Hull University; Manchester; Tate; Cork, Republic of Ireland

Plymouth Art Gallery houses Among the Pots and Church of St Michèle, Quimperlé, and the RCM, Truro has Her Signal, and A Steady Drizzle.

Penlee House has his most famous work: The Rain, it raineth every day;



Dowdeswell (3) (see Hardie 2009 for cat repr)

Notts Castle (7) (see Hardie 2009 for cat repr)

Whitechapel (see Hardie 2009 for cat repr)

Manchester City 1892

NAG (1895-1926) Opening Exhibition 1895

NAG Loan 1958


Penwith Society, 'Two Impressionists - Father and Daughter' (1978)

Artists of the Newlyn School (1979) NAG

Looking West (1987) NAG and RCA

Artists from Cornwall (1992) RWE Bristol

Faces of Cornwall (Portraiture) Exhibition, Penlee House (2005)

'The Talented Garstins', Penlee House, 2011 Apr-Jun






NEAC 1888

NAG from 1895 (Provisional Committee prior to Opening)

NSA from 1895


Personal Bibliography

Canney & Hopkins (1978) Two Impressionists - Father and Daughter Exhibition catalogue

 Garstin (Jan 1891) ‘A New Caricaturist’ Art Journal (No 43: pp25-30)

Garstin (Aug 1897) ‘Tangier as a Sketching Ground’ Studio International (pp 177-82)

NG: ‘Studio-Talk’ about Newlyn:  Issue 6 (Jan 1896) p 246;  Issue 7 (Mar 1896) p 113;  Issue 8 (Jun 1896) pp 43-5

Garstin, N (Mar 1902) 'Preface' to Spring Exhibition, 1902 at Whitechapel Art Gallery (Cornish Artists all), repr in Hardie (2009) pp61-4

 Hale (1999)  Norman and Alethea Garstin: A Brief Biography of Two Painters

Pryke (2005) Norman Garstin, Irishman and Newlyn Artist  (with Catalogue Raisonne)

Tennyson-Jesse ‘Norman Garstin: An Interview’ The Paper Chase (Vol II, 1909)


Cornish Telegraph 25 Mar 1909


 Cross (1984) Shining Sands

Dowdeswell Exhibition catalogue

Looking West Exhibition catalogue

Notts Exhibition Catalogue

Green (1995) Artists at Home

Graves RA Dictionary 1769-1904

Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn: Diary of a Gallery

Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall

Johnson & Greutzner (1975) Dictionary of British Artists

NAG Loan (1958) Exhibition catalogue

Newton et al (2005) Painting at the Edge

Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership

 RWE (1992) Artists from Cornwall, 'Artist Profiles: Historical', pp 33-7

Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash

Tovey (2009) St Ives: Social History

Tovey (2022) Lamorna - An Artistic, Social and Literary History - Volume II - Post-1920, Wilson Books 

Wallace (2002) Under the Open Sky